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Who’s Afraid of Multilingualism? Language and Intersectionality


Janina Brutt-Griffler

The State University of New York, US
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This contribution to the special issue addresses questions of social justice in the field of applied linguistics through the optics of multilingualism and intersectionality and from the standpoint of language teachers and learners. In monolingualist ideology, the multilingual speaker is transformed from the normal condition to the linguistic other, especially those without a clearly identifiable L1 or whose L1 does not conform to their presupposed linguistic identity. Linguistic theory contributes to this result by assigning an almost mystic quality to the “mother tongue” and its “native speakers,” when these questions can be and are quite fluid in our multilingual world. This article suggests the need for paradigm shifts in three areas. First, the too-frequent focus on how to best promote learning in the target language needs to make way for how to best promote multilingual proficiency up to advanced knowledge of several languages. Second, it is time to demystify the “mother tongue” or “native” or “first” language. Finally, the field needs to conceptualize “non-native speaking” teachers for their essential qualities—their multilingual proficiency—to form a better valuation of their actual language teaching skillset.
How to Cite: Brutt-Griffler, J., 2020. Who’s Afraid of Multilingualism? Language and Intersectionality. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 19(3), pp.151–164. DOI:
Published on 07 Oct 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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